Archive for the ‘books’ Category

h1

Christmas Stories: A Captured Santa Claus

December 11, 2014

When I was doing my annual selection of Christmas stories the other day, I couldn’t remember why I vaguely disliked Thomas Nelson Page, just that I did. And that’s how I ended up reading a Christmas story about a Confederate soldier and his family. And I guess I’m glad I did.

It’s called¬†A Captured Santa Claus, and it takes place between a Christmas and a Christmas during the Civil War. Major Stafford’s children are disappointed with the homemade presents that are all their mother can afford, but their father, home on a flying visit, promises the younger children that they’ll get what they want next year. For five year old Charlie, that’s a uniform and a toy sword. For his younger sister, Evelyn, it’s a doll with eyes that open and close.

Will Major Stafford be able to buy the gifts? Will he get home to Holly Hill to deliver them? Well, of course he will. But there are complications. By Christmas, Holly Hill is behind the Union lines, and going home without his uniform on could get Major Stafford executed as a spy.

This is basically the story you expect, but there are just enough twists to stop it from being completely predictable. And while Christmas is front and center, the Christmas spirit that goes with it is allowed to function without fanfare.

I did spent most of the story resenting a bunch of children for being Confederates, but, you know, that happens.

h1

You’re Only Young Once

November 30, 2014

I’ve been in a sort of Margaret Widdemer, sheltered girl finally getting the adventure she’s been wanting mood, so I keep picking up her books, but You’re Only Young Once isn’t in that mold. Instead of a lone, lonely heroine, you have a family of them, plus some brothers, with loving parents in the background. Angela Goldsborough is the eldest, a doll-like singing teacher, one of two daughters who are contributing to the family income. Then Janetta is tall, dark and business-minded, Deborah is dreamy and beautiful, Annice is quiet and quaint, and Isabella is lively and spoiled. All of them are pretty, and none of them lacks male attention — the older sisters draw lots for the parlor in the evening, because all of them are always expecting callers. Each of them gets a romance over the course of the book, and so do two of their three brothers — warm-hearted John and steady, bespectacled Worrel. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Dig Here!

November 28, 2014

Dig Here! is a bunch of familiar elements — teenage girl best friends, missing treasure, a cranky aunt, and abandoned house, etc. — assembled in a way that didn’t feel familiar. I found myself wondering a lot whether this was the book Gladys Allen set out to write.

The main character, Sandy, is the daughter of missionaries. She’s sent to boarding school during the school year and to various relatives during the summers. When Dig Here! opens, she’s facing the prospect of spending the summer with Aunt Cal, who she’s never met, and who is related to her only by marriage. Aunt Cal says it’s okay for Sandy to bring a friend with her, so she invites her best friend, Eve, and it’s a good thing for her that she does. Eve is a much more forceful personality than Sandy is, and she’s also more adventurous, more sensible, and probably smarter. She’s even better at dealing with Aunt Cal, in part because she’s better at cooking and housework and, I don’t know, getting up on time than Sandy is.
Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Cleek: The Man of the Forty Faces

November 11, 2014

I really enjoy terrible mysteries, but only a certain kind of terrible mystery. The episodic, gimmicky, pulpy kind that always feel like they were written between 1896 and 1906, whether or not they actually were.

Cleek: The Man of The Forty Faces is pretty much exactly that. It also makes no sense, and is clumsy in ways that mostly make it more interesting.
Hamilton Cleek (not his real name) is the titular character, and the gimmick. He’s a safecracker when the book starts, but that lasts only long enough to qualify as setup. He has a change of heart re: criminal activity after falling in love at first sight, and for the rest of the book he’s a detective working with Scotland Yard.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Aprilly

October 28, 2014

This is my third attempt at writing a review of Aprilly, by Jane Abbott. I’m not sure why writing about it is so daunting. It’s never going to be my favorite Jane Abbott book — there are structural issues, and a lot of what happens feels unearned. Also I found it hard to sympathize with the protagonist, and wished some of the other characters got more page time. But all of these things are things I’ve had time to think out. When I finished the book, I mostly just thought, “that was nice, but the romance was kind of creepy and unnecessary and Laughing Last was better.”

Anyway, I enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll want to read it again. And if you want more information than that (you should) here’s a bit of a synopsis:

April Dangerfield is left penniless and homeless (I mean, approximately) after the death of her circus performer mother, and somehow ends up in a small town in Maine, where she finds a number of friends, including the usual crotchety spinster, and eventually acquires a family. And also a horse.

Jane Abbott falls flat for me sometimes, usually in the books everyone else seems to like best. I guess this is just one of those times.

h1

Patty’s Fortune

September 24, 2014

Patty’s Fortune is divided pretty clearly into two sections. In the first Bill Farnsworth hosts a house party in an empty hotel, and in the second Philip Van Reypen’s aunt attempts to coerce Patty into marrying Phil. Hopefully that will make it easier to talk about. I’ve been struggling with these last few books, mostly because I have a hard time telling them apart.

The house party thing is, I guess, Wells’ chance to revisit the premise of The Dorrance Domain, except with wealthy young people being waited on by shoals of servants instead of children in straitened circumstances mostly waiting on themselves. The party consists of twelve people, including the Kenerleys as chaperones, a new man called Chick Channing, and no Philip. Yay! Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Chip of the Flying U

September 22, 2014

Jenn recommended Chip of the Flying U, by B.M. Bower, about a year ago, and that’s probably how long it’s been sitting on my Kindle. I don’t know why I picked it up this weekend, except that the internet in my apartment wasn’t working and I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about anything I was more familiar with, but I’m glad I did. It’s almost entirely delightful, one of those books that does enough right that you don’t care that much about the stuff it doesn’t. And if you have to be content with a kind of ham-fisted ending, well, everything before that is so much fun that the book has kind of earned the right to fall apart in the last chapter. Read the rest of this entry ?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 248 other followers